In addition to calling for more gravy for marketers, the Sioux Falls Area Strategic Workforce Action Agenda also says a few things about education—er, “talent development”. The general idea, of course, is that schools exist to create workers, because Arbeit Macht Frei:
Though educators at both the secondary and post-secondary levels sometimes balk at the notion that they are working to prepare “product” for the consumption of local employers in the form of skilled and qualified graduates, there can be no denying that the alignment of local training pipelines with the jobs being created in the regional economy improves not only the chances of graduates to find quality work but also the ability of companies to sustainably expand their businesses [Market Street Services, “Sioux Falls Area Strategic Workforce Action Agenda,” June 2015, p. 17].
Students as “product”? Balk balk!
The task force members (only two of whom, Sioux Falls School Board member Kent Alberty and Augustana Colliversity president Rob Oliver, are directly involved in education) know just what to do with education to improve their workforce situation. First, we must combat the bias against blue-collar work (says a 16-person task force that includes no blue-collar workers) with more marketing to save kids from going to colliversity:
What an internal marketing campaign focused on the benefits of the skilled trades can do, however, is let parents and students understand that there are viable and lucrative options to a traditional four-year degree path [“SFASWAA,” June 2015, p. 17].
We need to spend lots of money and hire lots of people to run that marketing:
An under-resourced or overly simplistic internal marketing initiative will not be successful. If greater Sioux Falls is going to do this, it must be done aggressively, sustainably, and with sufficient capacity to target all necessary audiences. Based on the approved program design, it is likely that a resource campaign or funding partnership will be necessary to activate, manage, and maintain the initiative. An entity will need to be identified to staff the campaign and make adjustments in coordination with key partners to best position the program for success. Eventually, if everything goes to plan, the need for the marketing effort will diminish over time as the message promoting skilled-trades opportunities becomes more culturally ingrained. Until that point, however, regional leaders must not waver in their commitment to address critical talent shortages in career and technical occupations by expanding the labor pipeline for these positions [emphasis original; “SFASWAA,” June 2015, p. 18].
(Yeah, but with the current workforce shortage, you’ll have a hard time hiring marketing staff, so you’ll need to create an aggressive marketing program to recruit marketers, and then we’re going to need more turtles.)
The task force report then resorts to scary language like forging a “cradle-to-career pipeline”, meaning apparently that we craft everything from preschool programs (SFASWAA calls for more) to adult internships to support the needs of employers. The message here: your job is your life.
Reacting with alarm to the decline of enrollment at University Center, the Sioux Falls task force asks not only for an expansion of offerings at University Center but a branch four-year campus for Sioux Falls:
An interesting model for Sioux Falls would be Rochester, Minnesota. While the community has recently become the latest metro to get a University of Minnesota branch campus, that facility is solely targeted on degree needs of area businesses, particularly the behemoth Mayo Clinic. A University Center in Rochester that existed before the creation of the University of Minnesota campus continues to offer local degrees in collaboration with two- and four-year institutional partners. Thus, the Sioux Falls Area could get its own four-year branch campus, likely an affiliate of the University of South Dakota, but still offer beneficial degree opportunities at the University Center. The USD campus would create degree programs wholly informed by business community needs and non-duplicative of existing University Center offerings [emphasis original; “SFASWAA,” June 2015, pp. 28–29].
Translation: leave the liberal arts at Augustana; we’ll finally get Sioux Falls a Regental campus, but by gum, we business people will control it!
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that a bunch of business people get together and lay out an agenda that is about nothing but business. It’s up to the rest of us to remind them (and the policymakers whom these deep-pocketed boosters will be lobbying) that there is more to life than our laboring for their profit.